By: Cole Buergi, Leonard & Finco Public Relations
Depending upon what side of the isle you lean, you were either exuberant very late last night (er, um, early this morning) or extremely disappointed. Setting the outcome aside, one lessen I think became quite clear is how social media has changed the way politics is perceived and how it is minimizing the impact traditional media plays in our election process.
Thinking back to the presidential elections I’ve witnessed (sadly, a lot which shows my age) prior to social media, most citizens got their news from just a select few national media outlets. In the early 80s, there were three national television networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) and a few national papers. In the 90s, that number grew with the addition of a few more national media, but citizens had little option but to look to these outlets to get their information to formulate their decisions.
In addition, with limited ways to get their message out, candidates had to seek out these reporters and position their messaging to generate coverage that would be positive for them. This gave reporters a significant amount of influence. It also meant people placed a high degree of trust in what was being reported and who was doing the reporting. Hence, you had such news stalwarts as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw who were trusted in providing their audience with accurate information.
Fast forward to 2016 and I believe that influence has waned significantly as candidates can now circumvent the media through social media platforms and speak directly to their audience, without the filter or fact checking of the media. It also allows the public to go to a variety of sources to find information instead of relying on a “small” group of traditional media for information.
Perhaps to some detriment, the public can also choose to review information from sites that present information from only their political view and don’t accurately portray the other side, leaving little, if no, opportunity to get a full perspective of the candidates.
Whatever your political view, I think this election highlights that social media has definitely changed the landscape of politics and how future campaigns will be managed.